Amnesty sure Govt will boost refugee quota

Children play in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (Getty)
Children play in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (Getty)

After years of lobbying, Amnesty International is finally confident the Government will increase New Zealand's refugee quota.  

Every party in Parliament has publicly backed raising the quota, except the one that counts -- National.

Labour and the Greens want it doubled to 1500 at a minimum, with ACT and New Zealand First supporting a less dramatic increase.

"This has got beyond being a right/left political issue; this is a basic humanitarian one," Amnesty International NZ executive director Grant Bayldon told Paul Henry this morning.

New Zealand ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack for accepting refugees on a per capita basis, and even lower when GDP is considered.

"We're so far behind all the countries we compare ourselves to."

Last Week Labour leader Andrew Little visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, home to about 80,000 Syrians. Mr Little says the experience strengthened his resolve to raise New Zealand's quote to 1500.

Mr Bayldon says this isn't surprising.

"You can't meet the people in those circumstances without being affected and thinking New Zealand can do more… You meet people who used to be teachers, used to be nurses, they used to be builders and they just want to make a start. It's always about the children -- they want their children to have the opportunity to get to safety."

The Government last year announced an emergency, one-off intake of 750 Syrian refugees, 600 of them on top of the quota.

Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year, is heating up again after a relatively quiet few months. A Syria-wide truce recently broke down, replaced with a temporary ceasefire which excludes the city of Aleppo, reports BBC.

Last week an Aleppo hospital was struck, killing 27 patients and staff, including the city's last remaining paediatrician.

"These are heroic people who are struggling on extremely difficult circumstances, and we've seen really the reckless targeting of civilian areas by both sides of this conflict," says Mr Bayldon.

"We have seen that hostilities outside of Aleppo have really scaled down since the last truce so there's a little bit of light there, but still plenty of darkness."

The Government is expected to announce whether or not New Zealand will raise its quota in July. If so, it'll be the first permanent increase since the 1980s.